Below are Taoist resources we’ve used for years and recommend.Let us know if you have questions about which Taoist resources may serve you on your path.
Recommended Taoist Resources
The Encyclopedia of Taoism
A good reference site with many Taoist materials on it. Worth spending some time and exploring for a more historical look at Taoism.
Chuang Tzu By Zhuangzi ( Chuang Tzu )
Lin Yutang, Translator This is one of the most famous Taoist works. The statement “Am I a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man” comes out of this work. This isn’t a complete translation. Rather it’s a selection from the larger works of the Chuang Tzu. This is in the Public Domain.
Tao Te Ching By Lao Tzu
R. B. Blakney, Translator
 The Tao Te Ching is by far the most central book in Taoism regarding public mindshare. Its simple prose mixed to deeper insights offer an excellent starting point for those wanting to experience Taoist thought. This is in the Public Domain.
Tao Te Ching By Lao Tzu
J. Legge, Translator
(Sacred Books of the East, Vol 39)  A classic baseline translation for the Tao Te Ching This is in the Public Domain.
The GNLTao Te Ching By Lao Tzu
Peter A. Merel
 A composite version based upon several earlier translations of the Tao Te Ching. This is an open source book.
More Versions of the Tao Te Ching
By Lao Tzu, This link will take you to an archived copy of a now inactive site having a hundred English translated versions of the Tao Te Ching and dozens of translations in other languages.
Another Online Collection of the Tao Te Ching
This link will take you to a still active site having some translated to English versions of the Tao Te Ching
I posted several translated versions of the Tao Te Ching in the library. Each version will have cross links so a reader can quickly jump and compare the various translations. No one version is correct. Instead, focus on the images you experience while reading each one.
Keep in mind hundreds of other translations exist.
What’s an acceptable translation? Scholars fight entire careers over this little topic.
So to clear things up, here is the truth of the matter:
Taoism simply states: it doesn’t matter. Words can never capture the true Tao.
Translations change over time, due to personal differences, cultural changes and the shifting nature of language to be relative to now. So discover over time new meanings upon each reading. This is about your own relative needs “in the now” determining how to embrace these works best.
Don’t worry about the translation, just enjoy each one as it is!
What Taoist Books are Best?
Are there any sacred books, classics, or traditions (including oral traditions) that are very important or at least prevalent in Taoism?
A few books can be considered to be universally sacred: for instance the Tao Te Ching. The answer will also depend on which lineage of Taoism you are exploring, with each maintaining their own secret books and teachings.
However, you have to be careful on the term sacred, as Taoism doesn’t maintain a western view of what this means. The books are not sacred, nor are the words. Taoism as a rainbow isn’t defined by scripts or books.
Taoism is 6 billion+ personal choices on how to explore the larger reality.
Books and such are merely starter kits for those beginning to look. However, you don’t need a book to find your way as a Taoist.
- Taoism has very deep roots as an oral tradition. Taoism stresses personal teachers, in part, to help to keep the practice dynamic and changing to conditions of the times.
- Taoist practice teaches one to listen to the world. From a Taoist perspective to be an oral tradition, also means to “Listen” to nature , to listen to the world around us.
- In reflection, a person needs to learn to listen internally to how their own mind, body and spirit speaks up.
- Much of Taoist practice isn’t spoken or found in the definition of any word as it’s embraced from the joy of experience, of traveling life.
Taoism is written within the music of your heart.
Something words only pale at in tenor to capture.
Many people seem to “need” a book to tell them their heartbeats nowadays.
Instead, Taoist Hermits and monks will go out into the caves to sit for 30 years to merge into the “Additional” truths.
Many in “Western” culture seem to “need” to die, need proof, need certification, to go to heaven, or at least that is what a book tells them. Is that wrong from a Taoist perspective? No, it’s just another way of looking at the world.
So the Westerners tend to use “sacred book” often as a method to overrule personal truth, to re-define reality to words. For a Taoist this is both alien and misdirected. Reality is a rainbow of perceptions and truth: teachings and books are a small representation of a larger truth. To say a book is “sacred” from a western perspective, implicates the book contains larger truths than what is already around one: implicates when given a choice between personal viewpoints and what is in the “sacred” book, the book takes precedence over the personal viewpoints… This is a dangerous road to travel and causes more personal and interpersonal conflicts than I care to review. So Taoism generally views “Sacred” lightly and places it in perspective of the larger universe.
To a Taoist, we are in heaven here and now,
The wisdom of the teachings of life:
are within the living.
All this forms a truth far larger than anything written by man. It’s just a question of learning of how to read: beyond the words.
Taoism is far older than what western “teachings” can document.
To a Taoist, it is what it is, All the history merely perspective to add additional insights to our current journey.
Western paper documentation is paper blowing into the winds of time. As prayer flags into the winds, sending out our wishes of what we would wish to be. Yet too often meaningless when only being used to validate ego. Papers and books will pass, yet the Tao is eternal, in that the teaching of its ways: are also eternal.
The only medium which can document such an eternal ideal: is life itself.
As life itself is also eternal.
Words are just filler to help pass the time.
The Tao Te Ching is a great book, but still a book. It will last a few thousand more years and then to pass into time. Yet Taoists and Taoism will go on.
Taoism was around long long before the Tao Te Ching and will be around long after the Tao Te Ching.
But if you are looking for classics, the Tao Te Ching is a great place to start!
Approaching Taoist Writings as a Student
Here is a student conversation about learning Tao
I did take out a copy of the Tao Te Ching from the library and I’ve been reading through it slowly. Actually, a question just came to me… I don’t feel that reading and thinking about the Tao is really getting me any closer to where I want to be. I feel like I’m just adding more thoughts and words and labels when I should really be freeing myself from them.
Firstly: The Tao Te Ching is poetry. Not to be read like a book, but glanced at when the whim strikes you.
If you would burn a holy book in front of most people of most religions: they would fight you, to save the words. (Words never burn, only paper)
If you would burn the Tao Te Ching in front of a senior Practitioner of Taoism, they would just turn around and leave you to your actions. In fact, they might at the right times help burn the book. Since life is werd… not the word being werd. But when you say word right, and you hear it and live it, then you can capture werd.
When the cultural revolution happened in China in the 1960’s, and the red guard came to the Taoist monks demanding their “holy books” to get burned. The Taoists just gave the books and shrugged, since the lessons were not in the books, but in the heart.
It’s how you live life that defines Tao, not all will make sense at once, nor will it all be seemingly relevant, but books such as the Tao Te Ching are there to help open up new angles to look at life. But they cannot truly define you, and if you define yourself to the book, you then limit yourself.
We change our life shifts and meaning traces with our life. The point being, when you read something, trying to get at absolute truth, to define something absolutely, well you end up trapping oneself in those walls of definition.
People get trapped in definitions, words, labels which is perfect since that is what you now ask about trying to learn about Taoism. Taoism is about the freedom to live as your heart beats.
Secondly and more importantly to this question.
We live in cycles
- At times we need to intake like a breath: ideas and concepts. These are the times you read such books like the Tao Te Ching
- At times we exhale, to live and act.
These are the times to jump and live fully. To define the world not to the definition but your actions, trial and error, play and testing what the world is from your own hearts perspective.
Your question tells me that you are currently exhaling into your life: so put the book down, jump into a smile and play.
Look at your life and look to see if you are inhaling of your nature or exhaling out your being.
Then dance accordingly.
Intaking and Releasing into one’s life.
This is the Tide of the Tao
Additional Online Taoist Resources
Taoism and the Arts of China (Teacher’s Resource from an exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago)
Taoist Treasure– Taoist Scriptures and Sacred Texts in English
Other Taoist Books
Cultivating the Energy of Life by Liu Hua-Yang
Seven Taoist Masters translated by Eva Wong
The Essential Qigong Training Course by Ken Cohen (video)
The Secret of the Golden Flower by Thomas Cleary
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
The Taoist Classics, Volume 1 by Thomas Cleary
We recommend the The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism: 2-Volume Set for a more historical perspective on Taoism.
There are also several translations of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) available for purchase. Each one will have something to ponder.
If you’d like to own your own Tao Te Ching, randomly choose one below:
Movement Meditation Books
Brain-compatible Dance Education by Anne Green Gilbert
Creative Dance for All Ages by Anne Green Gilbert
Shaking Medicine: The Healing Power of Ecstatic Movement by Bradford Keeney
Sweat Your Prayers by Gabrielle Roth
The Flying Drum: The Mojo Doctor’s Guide to Creating Magic in Your Life by Bradford Keeney
The Serpent and the Wave: A Guide to Movement Meditation by Jalaja Bonheim
Wisdom Comes Dancing by Ruth St. Denis